The long-coveted EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy was finally released on Monday, after an intensive process of consultations with EU Member States, academia and civil society. Notably, it was released in the tumultuous wake of the British referendum result on the so-called "Brexit". How does this affect the status of the Global Strategy? And what will this mean for the peace-making community? By Ingrid Magnusson and Anouk van den Akker
The peace-making community has been following the EU Global Strategy process closely. Given that Foreign and Security Policy also encompasses peace-making, any change of direction in the new strategy could have an important impact on how the peace-making community engages with the EU on these matters. This relates directly to concerns that resources allocated to peace-making might be rerouted to security-related measures. During the consultation phase with civil society, peace-making actors therefore worked hard to demonstrate the need for the EU to allocate sufficient resources and attention to peace-making and preventive activities. This was equally reflected in the many open and closed door meetings and consultations that were held on the strategy, as well as in the final document.
However, following these successful consultations, and the final presentation of the strategy, it is undermined by a new type of challenge. The result of the British referendum is suddenly rendering the strategy’s status unclear, alongside its effect on the peace-building community. At the April conference that officially closed the outreach and consultation process of the Strategy, one high-level commentator argued that ‘if Brexit happens, the strategy can just as well be tossed aside’. This begs the question - how will a Brexit affect the impact of the strategy? And what will this mean for the peace-building community? We see two main changes:
Firstly, the UK's strong position as a foreign policy actor and its defining voice within the EU foreign policy system is of great importance to the actions the EU takes externally. Consequently, the EU's capacity to engage with the rest of the world will likely change if the UK leaves. This could in turn affect the EU's global leverage and ability to influence global politics, including its peace-making efforts. As a result, it would be sensible for the EU to already critically assess how this will affect its current strategies, including its most recent one.
Secondly, although consultations were held with all Member States, the UK was arguably one of the main influencers in the development of the strategy. Given Brexit, the political balance underlining the document will change. Member States will be faced with a different balance of interests at the Council. Those whose foreign policy interests are not aligned with the UK might now want to put different options on the table, or prefer to be guided by a different strategy entirely.
What will all this mean for the peace-making community? As developments are still on-going, it is in many ways too early to tell. But what seems clear is that the content of the strategy will no longer be as important as the way in which it will be interpreted in the subsequent outcome documents. Peace-making actors can therefore not assume that their input, which fed into the making of the strategy, will retain its influence. They will need to keep a close eye on the coming sectoral strategies and, importantly, concrete action plans relating to preventive and peace-making activities.
Moreover, the EU’s financing of external activities might of course be affected by this change. In the long term, the UK’s contributions as a net donor might no longer be at the EU’s disposal. In the short term, certain field projects could perhaps be funded with more flexibility, given the differing power dynamics in the project approval committees when the UK no longer has a voice.
For the time being, it is difficult to pinpoint the concrete changes to the EU’s peace-making activities. However, by removing the UK from the equation, it looks like the outcomes of the strategy might be quite different from what was foreseen during the consultation process.